Troika! initiative is uniquely chaotic, utilising hidden information so that characters don’t know who will act next. This makes tactical decisions and planning difficult, resulting in a combat that is frenetic, reactive, and desperate.
I propose that we also make death and dying desperate and unpredictable.
For the uninitiated, this is the exact text of Troika!’s initiative system:
5.1 Assemble the Stack
During combat or at other times where it is important to know who goes first you will need to assemble the Initiative Stack. To do this get a container and a selection of coloured dice or other convenient markers (consider cards, poker chips, and so on).
5.1.1 Assign each character 2 Tokens of a single color.
5.1.2 Add Tokens to the Stack for the enemies equal to their total combined Initiative (if you have 8 Lizard-Men (Initiative 2) you would add 16 tokens to the Stack).
5.1.3 Add 1 Token of a distinct colour to the Stack. This Token signifies the End of the Round.
Using the Stack
The GM will remove a Token from the Stack at random, the colour or design of which will determine who holds the Initiative and takes a Turn. Consider giving a copy of their Token to each player so that everyone remembers which colour or design is theirs.
5.3 End of the Round
If the End of the Round Token is drawn all Tokens, including the End of the Round Token, are put back in the Stack. Remove Tokens contributed by dead characters and enemies, resolve any per Round or end of Round activities such as magic effects, Drowning (7.9), fire, poison, or bleeding, then draw another Token and carry on.
Many modern games handle dying in similar ways, where characters reduced to 0 hit points/stamina/whatever are given a limited window in which they might be saved before dying:
- Troika! says you must be Healed before the End of the Round Token is drawn.
- Mörk Borg gives you a d4 roll, with results starting at unconsciousness and moving through serious injury, bleeding out over d2 hours, and outright death anyway.
- Fifth Edition D&D uses Death Saving Throws, asking characters to roll 10+ on a d20 three times to live (with death occurring after three failures).
- Characters in DCC have a number of rounds equal to their level in which they can be healed after reaching 0 hp before dying.
The alternative death systems that follow replace the death system in whatever game you are using. They also assume you have replaced your normal Initiative system with Troika!’s.
The Simple System
When a character reaches 0hp, they fall unconscious. The next time their initiative marker is pulled from the stack, they die.
A character who reaches 0 hp is on death’s door. Place a black token in the Initiative stack.
The character can still take a single action and move at half their speed when it is their Initiative. Their action can’t be used to heal themselves without aid.
When the black token is pulled from the stack, the character dies.
When you reach 0 hp, you have a choice: fall unconscious, recovering naturally in 1d4 hours, or take a Wound token.
You continue to act as normal. Every time your Initiative marker is pulled from the stack, choose again: fall unconscious, or take a Wound token.
You can’t be healed while you have Wound tokens and are still in combat.
At the end of combat, roll on a suitable Wounds table. Modify your roll +1 for every Wound token you possess.
Troika!’s initiative system is incredibly versatile. Try using it to randomise spell durations and see what happens.
“Alternative Death Systems” is an independent production by Loot The Room and is not affiliated with the Melsonian Arts Council.
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